Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
SUICIDAL: BY ADRIEN (Show Me Your Life, USA)
Adrien is a 15-year-old bipolar sex worker who lives in Los Angeles and who struggles with cyclical, clinical depression. When living on the street, Adrien is unable to maintain his medication.
I have come to realize through working with the kids all over the planet who are a part of Show Me Your Life that there are more than a few absolutely BRILLIANT kids out there -- all of them are at-risk, and many of them are at-risk for HIV, prison, detention, institutionalization of one kind or another, addiction, gang activity, and clinical depression -- the list is endless. Yet these kids are out there and they are not always necessarily in school. I am working with one now.
His video (he is now calling it Suicidal again, the names change), is about not just suicide but a certain set of human edges being disconnected, and it's also about by-passing life. Thusly long video shots of a highway by-pass. There is a darkness to it, but there are soft moments, too. For a background, he filmed puppets in a rose garden at night with flashlights. The result is stunning. And this is a boy at-risk. He cannot be left out of that equation. He has lived on the streets of Los Angeles (he snuck into the flower garden) and is only now able to end his antibiotic treatment for tuberculosis.
The current thinking at the UN that HIV/AIDS is a phenomenon of isolated epidemics is insane. A pandemic affects everyone. Cinematheque deals with young people from all over the world. All sorts of at-risk populations and subgroups (such as homeless children in Russia) are also at-risk for HIV infection.
A rag-tent in the cold is better than no rag-tent.
I personally do not know any other way to reach through all of the trauma, fear, hurt, rage, and intransigence of the at-risk adolescent male (they can, in truth, be maybe ten) who has done sex work and who now copes with HIV other than via the language of art. And the kind of art matters.
Many of these boys have been completely independent half their lives. So Mickey Mouse arts and crafts and sixth grade bulletin boards are not acceptable.
I think they see the idea that is time differently. They have another lens. Time is something no one they know has enough of because it all runs out. Your home, your family, your friends, your health; it all runs out. What appears as a wild personal milieu set on some sexual stage of great autonomy, is, in fact, the official landscape of contradiction. They do not see either life or culture in black and white terminology. Their world is nuanced.
They understand that the word -- recovery -- is more a fluidity than something frozen solid and never moves. It is not an easy concept to grasp. They themselves grasp at the stray threads of addiction, and they completely get that addiction is a disease much like HIV and that their very lives are off the mainstream charts and always will be.
Sex work has worn many of them numb. We are not talking choices in lifestyles here. We are talking about young kids who are attempting to survive. The art they make will always speak to that. Every single kid has a camera of one kind or another. We are still giving cameras to kids. Those cameras (kinda scary) are always in motion. The cameras are always on. They record everything. So that they can look back and see their lives. What other kind of platform is going to reflect what they know. Mainstream culture simply wants to see them dead.
Some of their stuff can be found in Tristan's Moon in NYC's Tribeca. Or you can find it on any of my blogs or Real Stories Gallery. Their poetry is not simplistic. They do comprehend how to scale barriers. Working with the spirits of other barrier scalers and such creative forces of nature such as Rachel Chapple, Desmond Tutu, Phillip Glass, Art for Humanity, and all the other people who have endorsed Real Stories Foundation have buoyed me up when the gravitas only wants to weigh you down.
HIV can be the least of it. Other issues can involve neuropathy, TB, complications from fist fucking, STDs, clinical depression, bone death, skin diseases, eye infections, malnutrition, suicide ideation, and dope withdrawal which in and of itself can be highly dangerous. These are the trenches, and I see no other option than to bring art into it because you can't just give a kid a pill and make it better. Making it better is a relative concept. I can't make it better for them, but I can guide them through a place where they are making art, yes, to see into who you are, and how you actualize that, but they are also developing the stamina to reinvent themselves again and again and again and again. Obviously, I've been there. I am a witness to how art is a powerful, breathtaking force in the cosmic soup, and as human beings with something to give back, and they need to know they can, they are carving something of a life from this planet that is validated by what they do. That kind of art. Big Girl art. Arts and crafts is for pussies, and they are NOT pussy boys in any way, shape, or form. They're tough and they can be mean. Feral does describe it some.
Last night I was editing a photograph of a guy we know as Slick. How many people do you know named Slick and live up to the name. They might be incomplete, but they have rich personalities. The art they make has to count -- to them -- how you, the proverbial outsider, see anything at all is not perceived as their problem. The art they make is art they can juxtapose against all the other art that is made around them. We post very little of it on the Internet. What you see is miniscule. We regard the Internet as mainly contemptible, stupid, and infested with haters we do not care to know or read.
Digital technology is a highly valued item. But it's what you do with that item that counts. Many of them have sold themselves as whores on the Internet which is infinitely better than working any street. Many of the art videos they make and mash today are quite complicated. It's how you learn to do a thing. Whether it's a painting or a poem or a video or Show Me Your Life or Cinematheque, the representations they create signify to them the possibility of not just what they can do, but what they can be, and if there is a final life-raft to cling to, this is it.